Sometimes the urge to pull out the pen and paper hits us in sticky situations. For the last week and a half I’ve been running out of ink recording the constant stream of humid Colombian adventures with my gringo partner in crimes against arepas (corn meal pockets of deliciousness), Mateo.
I roasted myself into a candy cane gringo zebra my first day in Bogota walking up a mountain to 9,000 feet with a definite lack of sunscreen on my winterized skin.
A posterchild for how high altitude burns can happen to you!
The midday traffic and honking makes LA look like the remote desert it should have been. We couldn’t escape quickly enough, and when we got off the plane in the colorful Caribbean city of Cartagena we felt a wave of heat like a clean blanket fresh from the dryer. Colorful walls with flowers hanging from the balconies serve as backdrops to innumerable coconut salesmen, women cutting up fresh mango and papaya, and of course the hat men who can help you fulfill a secret desire to embody Panama Jack.
Time disappeared into the silky soft white sand beach of Playa Blanca, our island home for a couple days off the coast of Cartagena. Matt and I sat on blue plastic chairs entranced by the turquoise water still sticky on our skin after our umpteenth dip. A constant line of Brazilian bikini clad ladies boasting Playboy booties filed by slowly searching for their cabana, tent or hammock for the evening. Matt and I splurged for the $15/night cabana, run by a conspiracy theorist named Nico (apparently Castro was a Jew who worked for the CIA). our home was a ladder climb above the check in shack, basically a mattress covered by a mosquito net. Fresh water was not an option for washing and the toilet, a hole in a tent next to the cook shack, left nothing about your neighbors to the imagination.
$15 view of paradise
From island paradise we zoomed back to Cartagena on a speedboat that gauged its speed on the squeals of the passengers. Did I mention the 6 foot waves and massive air time and the engine that cut out most inconveniently next to the rocky cliffs?
From there we travelled up the coast to Santa Marta, where we clutched our bags on an hour long jeep ride into a jungle town called Minca. We took a chance on Airbnb by reserving two nights on a coffee farm for $16/person/night.
Matt’s first mule ride
In the “town center,” four shacks at the dirt intersection, we were met by our host Eugenio and three mules. Matt’s first mule ride (other than a pony ride at a five year old birthday party) was this 45 minute ascent into the verdant hills during an orange sherbet sunset. Eugenio’s wife, Ana, welcomed us with fresh, organic coffee grown on their farm, followed by a delicious Colombian dinner.
For those of you who don’t mind geckos chilling in your shoes and bugs the size of Paris Hilton’s dog, La Candelaria promises an unforgettable slice of authentic Colombian jungle life. Brilliant green hummingbirds zoomed over our heads while we sat around the table conversing about Colombian politics, climate change and travel stories.
From their deck you can see the city lights of Santa Marta in the distance, with hundreds of avocado, mango, papaya and cacao tree leaves crinkling in the breeze. Eugenio gave us an in depth tour of the coffee making process and I now know more about seed to cup than most other people who don’t drink the stuff. One of our three days sharing their haven we day hiked to a series of refreshing pools and cascades hidden in the jungle. I even caught a glimpse of Toucan Sam in all his fruit loop glory.
Tomorrow Matt and I start a five day trek into La Ciudad Perdida, a sacred ancient lost city estimated at 1200 years old (450 years older than Machu Picchu).
From the rooftop hammock in the sea breeze,
Your crazy gringa